The first phase of the Digital Durham scheme, which aims to bring superfast broadband to the North East county, has been completed, having connected up more than 107,000 homes and businesses to fibre optic broadband. In a partnership with BT, the project has installed 498 street cabinets to bring fibre to thousands of premises well ahead of its original target. It started off with a single cabinet in the historic marketplace in the city of Durham back in December 2013, and slowly rolled out around the county over the last couple of years, finally connecting up Coxhoe, Meadowfield, New Brancepeth, Peterlee, and Willington in the last few weeks.
Cllr Jane Brown of Durham County Council said: “The completion of phase one, providing faster broadband to more than 107,000 homes and businesses is a major milestone in our partnership with BT. It’s a real source of pride that so many people can now use this technology for work, study and pleasure.
“But we’re not resting on our laurels. This further investment through phase two will ensure faster broadband is available to even more people and we’ll consider whether we can further improve coverage beyond this.”
She’s right – the project is now ready to start on its second phase, which will focus more on difficult-to-reach rural areas in County Durham, Gateshead, Tees Valley, and South and North Tyneside.
Residents in areas where it’s already arrived are urged to switch to the faster service, which offers download speeds up to 80Mb and upload speeds up to 20Mb – a little faster than most fibre broadband in most of the UK.
“It’s an ‘opt-in’ service,” explains Simon Robertson, BT regional partnership director for the North East, “but because the Openreach network is ‘open’, there is a wide choice of fibre broadband providers.”
The first phase of the multi million pound Digital Durham partnership has been completed successfully with more than 107,000 households and businesses now able to access faster fibre broadband as a direct result of the programme.
Work is already well underway on the second phase of the roll-out with the first homes and businesses expected to be connected by the end of next month. This additional 9 million investment will bring fibre broadband speeds within reach of a further 29,000 homes and businesses across the Digital Durham programme area by December 2018. Digital Durham is delivered by Durham County Council and BT.
Across the programme area, people living and working in locations such as Middleton-in-Teesdale, Low Fell, Stanley, North Shields, South Shields, Wideopen, Lanchester, Benton, Stillington, Wellfield and Boldon will soon be enjoying the benefits of faster broadband.
Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council s cabinet member for corporate services, said: The completion of phase one, providing faster broadband to more than 107,000 homes and businesses is a major milestone in our partnership with BT.
It s a real source of pride that so many people can now use this technology for work, study and pleasure.
But we re not resting on our laurels. This further investment through phase two will ensure faster broadband is available to even more people and we ll consider whether we can further improve coverage beyond this.
In recent weeks, communities including Coxhoe, Peterlee, New Brancepeth, Willington, Meadowfield, Sherburn Hill and Wearhead have all been upgraded.
The last of 498 street phase one cabinets built since the first cabinet went live in Durham s historic marketplace in December 2013 was switched on last month in Plantation Avenue in Littletown.
This second phase of the roll-out will see engineers from Openreach, BT s local network business, reaching some of the more challenging and rural locations in County Durham, Gateshead and the Tees Valley and, for the first time, the programme will move into South and North Tyneside.
Simon Roberson, BT s regional partnership director for the North East, said: Delivering a programme of this size has not been easy, and in particular reaching some extremely remote parts of County Durham is a great achievement and is testament to the dedication of around 100 Openreach planners and engineers who have been keeping busy, clocking up thousands of man hours to plan and carry out this mammoth feat of civil engineering.
Since the first green fibre street cabinet went live, hundreds of kilometres of underground fibre optic cable has been laid and 498 new street cabinets installed in what is one of the region s largest civil engineering projects in recent years.
However, there is still more to do and, as well as continuing the roll-out, we are also looking at ways to make existing fibre services go faster and reach further.
We want to keep that momentum going so communities the length and breadth of the programme area get the maximum possible benefit.
I would encourage those with access to fibre based broadband to contact their service provider to arrange an upgrade. It s an opt in service, but because the Openreach network is open , there is a wide choice of fibre broadband providers.
In total, 34 million has been invested in Digital Durham by BT, Durham County Council, the Government s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and public sector partners in Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Tees Valley. Tees Valley includes Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.
Thousands of households and businesses across the Digital Durham programme area have already ordered fibre based broadband and are now enjoying faster speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary
Local authorities have underspent on broadband rollouts by around 150 million, it has emerged. The CEO of government broadband fund Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) says that the money will be invested into getting the final 5% connected. The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project was set up to fund superfast broadband rollouts across the UK, particularly in areas where private companies would otherwise not invest. The actual rollouts are organised by each area’s local authorities, with extra financial support coming from the infrastructure company commissioned to deploy the cable – typically BT. The goal is to make superfast broadband available to 95% of premises, but that leaves 5% with slow broadband, or no broadband at all.
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to deliver some form of internet access to everyone, but with much of the final 5% in areas that are very remote, or on terrain that makes it difficult to deploy infrastructure, there remain questions over how it is going to achieve this. So it’s good that BDUK’s got a little bit of extra money to play with. Speaking last week at the Connected Britain event in London, BDUK CEO Chris Townsend said: “There was an underspend of 150m against Phase 1 contracts, which is also coming back in. We hope that amount of money will give us at least one more percentage point of coverage.”
The fund is also getting some money back from BT – 129 million so far – meaning that more than 280 million is available to invest into the next phase of the BDUK project, which will take superfast coverage from 90% of homes and business to 95%. As well as talking funding plans, Townsend also reflected on some the highlights of the initial phase of rollouts and cited County Durham as a major success story.
That region has gone from 60% superfast coverage to 98%, seen the number of small businesses grow by 11% and unemployment drop from 8.4% to 2.2%.